Dumping Durham.

By-elections are an opportunity for protest. While governments try to call them for the most opportune times, they know that it is the voter, inclined to vote against the government, who is most motivated to go to the polls. It means it is an opportunity for opposition campaign managers to look good.

That being said, the three by-elections this week were not the best opportunities for the opposition. Victoria in B.C. was an NDP riding before and the only strong competition was from the Green Party because of Green Leader Elizabeth May representing a B.C. riding. The discredited right-wing B.C. provincial Liberals were of absolutely no help to the federal Liberals.

Calgary Centre was more fun because a strong Liberal candidate was threatening a lamentable Conservative throughout the campaign. The Conservative made rooky mistakes of arrogance and extremism but still won in the end. Having another rabid Wildrose Conservative in his caucus is not going to bother Stephen Harper too much. He seems to have learned the secret of keeping them muzzled, most of the time.

But as bad as the Conservative was in her home turf of Calgary, it was hard to match the Liberal blunders in Ontario’s Durham. To be fair, Durham has never been a hotbed of liberalism. While there have been Liberal MPs there in the past, the riding dynamics have changed as the area became a bedroom for the Greater Toronto Area.

The Liberal campaign broke with every sensible approach known by putting up election signs without the candidate’s name to cash in on Remembrance Day. The move became a target for the opposition and the campaign went downhill from there. Instead of fighting a by-election on the arrogance of the Harper Conservatives, the argument was over the stupidity of the Liberal campaign.

What the Liberals did not need was to come third in Durham. The federal party had an obligation to send in help with clear directions to make the campaign a genuine protest against the Harper Conservatives. They also needed to make better use of the current popularity of MP Justin Trudeau.

The party needs to chalk it up as another lesson learned. One of these days, hopefully, we will look like we know what we should be doing.

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Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry

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